Happy Halloween! I figured I’d talk about a thriller in honor of one of my favorite holidays. Let me tell you guys, this book was ADDICTIVE. Definitely gave me all the spooky vibes going into Halloween, and it wasn’t just the occult fascination that kept me going (p.s. how wicked is the cover). I loved this book because of the 100% realism within it. We all wonder what would happen if we saw ghosts (at least I do on a literal daily basis), but I feel like it is often times glorified and we don’t really think of how that would impact someone. Our main gal Alex has always seen “The Quiet Ones”, and it has messed up her life from the start. Really, if a kid walked up to you on the street right now, claiming they can see ghosts, would you believe them? She grew up so isolated from other humans because of this. I felt like it was truly realistic to have her turn to drugs and drop out of school… because sadly, that happens to so many children when they have no guidance and they get mercilessly bullied. Even her own mother didn’t quite know how to help her; whenever she tried to talk about the ghosts she could see her mom just chalked it up to the drugs in her system. Hopefully we learn more about her father in the next novel, because something tells me he may have been able to see ghosts as well.
Another incredibly real aspect of this book was the setting. It takes place on the Yale campus (I’ve never been to Connecticut, or the east coast for that matter, but after reading this book methinks I should plan a trip), and the secret societies on campus are real. I have heard about Skull and Bones before, but I had no idea about the other societies. Something about these societies being real, and very influential, is equal parts fascinating and disturbing to me. I won’t go into too much about it, but if you are ever curious you can go down a deep rabbit hole about Skull and Bones and the other secret Yale societies… I can guarantee it will blow your mind. Makes you wonder just how much was fabricated for this very good supernatural story and what is actually true.
I loved the thrill of this book. The way it bounced back and forth from Alex’s life before Yale, her experiences with Darlington, and then her trying to solve the murder mystery by herself really added to the suspense. Her life before Yale was hard to read, especially when it started to spiral out of control after the rape scene. After I read that part, I actually had to put the book down to process it, and it got me thinking of how many times society doesn’t listen to victims in real life, let alone this instance when she was actually raped by something no one else could see. I don’t blame her for running away, using drugs as an escape. She let others think what they may about her without correcting them because it was easier for her to live that way. I really liked watching Darlington’s perspective as he learned more about Alex and found she wasn’t what he assumed about her. Though when I got to the detailed Ground Zero scene… damn. The fact that Hellie possessed Alex and helped her kill all of those bad men was insane. And Darlington was smart enough to put two and two together… I really hope he gets past the fact that Alex killed them once she saves him… and I hope she opens up to him about why she killed them and how she was able to because of Hellie’s possession.
I loved Alex, Darlington, Dawes, Detective Turner, and the Bridegroom. They were all such well-written characters. Darlington’s past was intriguing; watching him grow up with his grandfather without his parents and then inheriting the Black Elm estate was unexpected. He was an entirely self sufficient boy who learned at a young age to grow up, and I really understood his fascination with the occult and the sense of “other” out there. Even his past struggles prove that there’s more than meets the eye… he was “the golden boy” but he also had a tumultuous background. He actually was perfect for Lethe… it was never about the funding or opportunities for him. It was about learning all that he could about what was beyond the Veil and what made New Haven such a perfect place for these supernatural societies. I think Alex was a perfect Dante for him because he learned from her as much as she learned from him, and he taught her what Lethe should really be about. I’m really curious to see how Alex gets him back and what changes he went through as a literal demon (which I did not expect). I loved Dawes and Detective Turner as supporting characters and how they formed an alliance with Alex further in the story, especially as Dawes became more of a friend to Alex. I know Dawes will be in the next story, but I’m hoping Turner will be as well because I really liked him. I thought him and Alex made a good team when he finally started believing in the supernatural and he listened to her. And the Bridegroom… I loved it when she started working with him. Maybe its my own ghostly fascinations talking here but I hope she teams up with more Grays in the next novel (or at least keeps working with him). There was more to his story as well, and he wasn’t the murderer he eventually became famous for.
I KNEW something was off about the Dean and Belbalm… I did not like the Dean from the second we first heard of him. There was just something sus about his behavior towards Alex and how he encouraged her to stop looking into the murder. It definitely could have been sexism as Dawes pointed out, but he gave me bad vibes from the start. And the fact that he wanted Darlington to disappear and to kill Alex? Bruh. I also was really suspicious of Belbalm and her too good to be true treatment of Alex, though I didn’t quite know how she’d play into the story. I had a funny feeling that they might be in cahoots… but what shocked me was that Belbalm had literally used those girls’ bodies for decades. That was entirely unexpected, and I was more than shocked to find out that she really was the culprit the whole time.
All in all, I loved every second of this book. The only other Leigh Bardugo books I’ve read were Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom (oh you haven’t read those posts? Lame. Go read them)… and while those were good, this book has to be my favorite. This gripping thriller got me thinking about not just ghosts, but society in general and that’s something. It wasn’t just about the supernatural aspect, it was about real life triggers as well. I truly can’t wait for the second novel to come out.